Míng Xiàolíng Tomb

Top choice tomb in Nanjing

Image by graham klotz Getty Images

Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398), the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty (also known as the Hongwu Emperor), was buried in the tomb of Míng Xiàolíng; he was the only Ming emperor buried outside Běijīng. The area surrounding the tomb is the Míng Xiàolíng Scenic Area. A tree-lined pathway winds around pavilions and picnic grounds and ends at scenic Zǐxiá Lake, ideal for strolling. A combo ticket for the tomb and the Lińggǔ Temple Scenic Area is ¥100.

The first section of this magnificent mausoleum is a 618m ‘spirit path’, lined with stone statues of lions, camels, elephants and horses that drive away evil spirits and guard the tomb. Among them lurk two mythical animals: a xiè zhì, which has a mane and a single horn on its head, and a qílín, which has a scaly body, a cow’s tail, a deer’s hooves and one horn.

As you enter the first courtyard, a paved pathway leads to a pavilion housing several stelae. The next gate leads to a large courtyard with the Línghún Pagoda (Línghún Tǎ), a mammoth rectangular stone structure. Follow the crowds through a long uphill tunnel to a wall (which children and visitors clamber up!) and a huge earth tumulus (called the Soul Tower; 明楼; Mínglóu), beneath which is the unexcavated tomb vault of the emperor. On the wall are inscribed the characters '此山明太祖之墓' ('This hill is the tomb of the first Ming emperor'). The other Ming emperors are buried outside Běijīng at the Ming Tombs (十三陵; Shísān Líng).

Near the entrance is Plum Blossom Hill.

From Muxuyuan metro station (Line 2), it’s a 1.6km walk uphill. Tour bus Y3 from the city centre also takes you here.